RP mulls lifting Lebanon OFW ban
MANILA, Philippines--The Philippine government is conducting a study on the political and security situation in Lebanon to determine whether to lift a ban on the deployment of workers to that country imposed in 2006.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque disclosed this recently, saying Philippine Ambassador Roy Cimatu has been tasked to assess the security situation in Lebanon.
“We are doing a survey again because the last report in October was essentially the same. General Cimatu has been ordered by the President to submit his report on Lebanon this January,” Roque said.
The Department of Labor and Employment would complete the study before deciding on Beirut’s request to lift the ban, Roque added.
The Philippine government imposed the ban in 2006, at the height of the Israel-Lebanon war. The government also repatriated thousands of workers from the Lebanon.
Despite the deployment ban, thousands of Filipinos managed to sneak in the country, a Lebanese official said.
In 2006, around 5,200 Filipinos went to Lebanon. In 2007, another 16,140 sneaked out of the Philippines, some taking a circuitous route to get to Lebanon. Between January and November 2008, 21,982 overseas Filipino workers entered Lebanon, data from the Lebanese embassy said.
Most of the Filipino workers in Lebanon are employed as domestic workers but recent reports indicate that they have taken better paying jobs in restaurants.
Meanwhile, Roque said it was unlikely for the Philippines to lift the OFW deployment ban in Iraq or permit the entry of Filipino workers in the relatively peaceful northern region of the war-torn country.
Recently, Iraqi embassy officials in Manila asked the Philippine government to allow OFWs in Iraq in anticipation of the huge worker requirement in 2009 for major infrastructure and reconstruction projects.
Iraqi officials said the Philippines could send workers to the Kurdish region in the north, which has been relatively peaceful compared with the rest of the country. They noted that many foreign firms have set up headquarters in the region.
But Roque said it would be difficult to agree to Iraq’s request due to safety considerations.
“Even if it is peaceful in the north, nobody, nothing would prevent them (OFWs) from going South. When they are in the South, they might be taken hostage,” Roque said.
The Philippines imposed the deployment ban in Iraq in 2004 after a Filipino truck driver was abducted by an Iraqi extremist group. He was released through the intercession of the Philippines’ diplomatic contacts in the Middle East. The Philippine government also pulled out its military contingent to Iraq not long after the driver’s release. This strained its relations with the United States, which undertook the invasion of Iraq, with help from countries composing a "coalition of the willing."
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